Monday, January 10, 2011

India as a hegemon but will the Philippines bandwagon with it?

(based on the policy paper presented by Atty Pedro Banzon, MNSA“India as a World Superpower: Its Impact on the Philippines” to the Strategic Studies Group on 14 December 2010)

Edited by Chester Cabalza


THE END OF THE COLD WAR USHERED in a new world order in which with the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, the United States appears to be the remaining so-called superpower. There are however quite a few great powers, which emerging from the great wars, or with the end of the colonial period and with their independence, attained such state of economic, political, technological development as to be capable of fully protecting their national interests and greatly influencing other states in any aspects of the complex international relations. Some of them are aspiring to attain superpower status.

Major Issue

India – An Emerging/Emerged Power?

India is a country in South Asia which is the seventh largest country in the world. It is considered as a sub-continent with a population of 1.18 billion, the second in the world in terms of population; and the most populous democracy. India is a federal constitutional republic with 28 states and seven union territories. It maintains the third largest standing armed force in the world. Like China, India’s economic growth averaging about 8 percent annually during the last decade or two, the second fastest growing economy after China, can be described as phenomenal. Among other achievements, India is one of the world’s leading producers of computer software, the third Asian nation to launch satellites into space, and the fourth country to send an unmanned lunar probe and plant the Indian flag on the moon’s surface. Hence, India is an emerging superpower.

Strategic Scenarios for Policy Considerations

A. The Indian Armed Forces

Like almost all of the armed forces of great powers, the military component of the Republic of India consist of the Indian Army, the Indian Navy, the Indian Air Force and various other inter-service institutions.

At present, the Indian military consists of about 1,325,000 Regular troops, 1,155,000 Reserves and approximately 1,293,300 Paramilitary forces (a total of about 3,773,300 troops), making India the third-largest standing military in the world after the People's Republic of China. The Indian Coast Guard, the Central Paramilitary Forces (CPF) and the Strategic Forces Command constitute its Auxiliary services. The country’s official defense budget amounts to US $32 billion although like China, the actual spending on the armed forces is believed to be much higher. India has in its arsenal nuclear weapons, estimated about 50- 80 warheads and for its delivery, operates short and intermediate-range ballistic missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft and naval vessels.

As part of its on-going rapid expansion and modernization, the Indian Armed Forces has an active military space program, including the development of a missile defense shield and nuclear triad capability. India plans to build a $2 billion core dedicated, highly secure and state-of-the-art optical fiber cable (OFC) network for its Armed Forces three major services, making it one of the world's largest, closed user group (CUG) networks for exclusive use by the million-plus military personnel (Jane Defense Weekly).

The Indian Air Force now ranks the fourth largest air force in the world with approximately 170,000 personnel, and 1,309 aircraft in active service. Since the last decade or so, the Indian Air Force has undertaken an ambitious expansion and modernization program, obviously for power projection beyond South Asia. Early in its expansion program, the Air Force generally depended on Soviet, British, Israeli and French military craft and technology to support its growth.

Making effective use of offset and technology transfer arrangements, particularly by the state agency Defense Research & Development Organization (DRDO), India is currently manufacturing its own aircraft. These include the Sulkhoi 30 MK1, multi-role fighter bomber in cooperation with Russia, HAL Tejas, a 4th generation fighter, and the HAL Dhruv, a multi-role helicopter, which has been exported to several countries, including Israel, Burma, Nepal and Ecuador.

India also manufactures and maintains UAV squadrons which can be used to carry out ground attacks and aerial surveillance. It is also expected to come up soon with its own the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), in development for over 20 years, reportedly at a cost of over US$2 billion. It has its own long range air to air missile named Astra and also building a Medium Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) called Rustom. India and Russia are building number of next generation aircraft like 5th generation stealth aircraft called Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (Sulkhoi 35) in addition to the multi-role fighter Sulkhoi 30MKI and medium-lift military transport aircraft called Multirole Transport Aircraft.

Navy controls the ship and in future submarine based missiles and the Air Force the air based warheads. India's nuclear warheads are believed deployed in four areas:

1.Ship based mobile, like Dhanush.(operational)
2.Land-based mobile, like Agni.(operational)
3.Submarine based, like Sagarika (under deployment)
4.Air-based warheads of the Indian Air Forces' strategic bomber force (operational)

B. Indian Missiles

The current Indian ballistic missiles are the Agni I, II, III, IV, Prithvi I, II, III Dhanush, the SRBM Shaurya, and the SLBM Sagarika K -15.

C. Indian Military Spending

India is the world's 10th largest defense budget. In 2009, India's official military budget amounted to $32.7 billion. In 2004, the Global estimated India's budget to be around $100 billion in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP).

According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India's military budget (PPP) stood at $72.7 billion in 2007 A great portion of India's current defense budget is utilized to fund the ambitious modernization program of the country's armed forces. For about five years starting from 2007 up to 2012, India is expected to spend about $50 billion on the procurement of new weapons. India boosted defense spending by 21 percent in 2009. The country has in its modernization plans the acquisition/ construction of aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates, fifth generation multi-role fighters, submarines, conventional and nuclear, heavy transport aircraft, main battle management systems, UAVs etc.

Current PH-India Relations

The first Philippine envoy to India was the late Foreign Secretary Narciso Ramos. Seven years after India’s independence in 1947, the Philippines and India signed a Treaty of Friendship on 11 July 1952 in Manila to strengthen the friendly relations existing between the two countries. Soon after, the Philippine Legation in New Delhi was established and then elevated to an Embassy.

In April 2009, the Indian Navy warships INS Khanjar and INS Jyoti made port visits to Manila under the terms of the 2006 RP-India defense cooperation agreement.

In observance of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with India on 16 November 1949 President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during her incumbency proclaimed the month of November 2009 as “Philippines-India Friendship Month” under Proclamation No. 1924 signed on 23 October 2009 in Malacañang Palace.

PH-India Cooperation on Defense Technology

Indian (defense) technology is more advanced than the Philippines. Both countries can benefit from a much closer cooperation in the following:

1. Development and Application of Space Technology. – such as telecomnmunication, television broadcast, meteorological services – disaster warning and providing information related to agriculture by the use of Indian-built satellites (which are cheaper). Thus, it is believed that India can assist RP in surveillance capability in the latter’s ISO operation. (At present, it is claimed that India’s surveillance satellite can cover only about 2,000 km radius from India. It is expected, however, that by 2012, this will expand to cover areas to include Southeast Asia and the Philippines).

2. Procurement of Defense Equipment / Technology Transfer – With its strong Navy and naval aviation, India can assist in maintaining stability in the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea -all the way to the Straits of Malacca against piracy in the high seas and other transnational crimes and terrorism. In 2003 in Bali, ASEAN and India signed a Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism. (There has been some suggestion on the role of India as a possible hedge (by the US) against China’s territorial ambitions and hegemony tendencies).

Policy Recommendations

1. That the Memorandum of Agreement of PH and GOI be implemented more vigorously especially in the areas of defense technology, intelligence exchange (particularly in the campaign against insurgency and terrorism), and training where mutual benefits may ensue, and continue the practice of high level visits,

2. More initiative and vigorous efforts be made to further strengthen trade ties, reduce trade gaps and – specially in the service sector and in BPO, if possible, to adopt measures for complimentary programs and to minimize competition.

3. That the Philippines take advantage of India’s offer of assistance and cooperation in science, research, technology, higher education, in agriculture and defense infrastructure and industry development.

4. That the implementing constraints be addressed specially in the matter of proper coordination, review of operational procedures, removal or reduction of bureaucratic red tape, specially in setting up business and drumming up investments by better initiative on the part of the implementers.

5. That the necessary budgetary/ administrative support should be provided, consistent with our other defense and security requirements.

6. That Philippines continue to seek the political support of India and other major powers in dealing with China on the territorial disputes in the South China Sea and help ensure peace, stability and economic development in the region.


India, (like China) is a global power; in fact President Obama in his visit to India last October 2010 even used the words “has emerged” and not merely “emerging”. It is predicted that India will become the third largest economy after China and the US, perhaps in a decade or less.

Undoubtedly, India and China, (both consider themselves as still developing economies) are asserting themselves in the arena of global governance- in WTO, ILO, IMF etc. making them heard and protecting their interests and espousing the cause of developing nations or providing political and economic leadership. Today, even as China is India's largest trading partner, these two Asian great powers are in competition with each other in these efforts in their quest for political and economic and cultural dominance in Asia.

India has joined the world’s nuclear club, for some time the exclusive domain of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. India’s economic performance during the last two decades has been short of miraculous with an annual growth rate of about eight percent. It has made great strides in its military modernization program, through offsets arrangements, joint ventures and technology transfers that now enables the country to manufacture its own military assets that include warships, aircrafts, ballistic missiles, and electronic battle management systems, without mentioning its nuclear stockpile.

In the case of the relationship between the Philippines and India, due to a number of constraints, particularly on the financial requirements for operationalizing the details of areas of cooperation and the need to prioritize existing bilateral relationships with other nations, the implementation of the provisions of the MOA with India and the expected increase in trade and cultural areas have been relatively minimal, and not fully maximized.

Thus, at the present time and perhaps for the next few years there does not seem to be much impact on the Philippines as regards to India emerging as a great power. Our economy is still much influenced by our trade relations with the United States, China, Japan South Korea and the European Union. Commerce and trade between the Philippines and India while improving is still minimal, representing just about two percent of the country’s total trade.

In the area of defense and security, more vigorous efforts in the exchange of information on terrorism and personalities associated with this scourge of nations, and lessons in the campaign against insurgency afflicting both countries, would be mutually advantageous. But, presumably, it cannot replace the traditional political, economic, military and cultural ties the Philippines has with the US, the current global superpower, in the light of the estimated four million-strong Filipinos residing in that country. For unlike in India (which currently has a Filipino population of less than 2,000) there is hardly a Filipino family who has no relatives in the US. Nonetheless, it would not be proper to assume that India’s weight in the power equation in the region or in the global stage would be minimal considering the prediction of its being the third largest economy after China and the US, the biggest population in 20-30 years with the most number of young educated work forces in the world.


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The views expressed in the policy brief do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Defense College of the Philippines. The readers are free to make additional copies or quote any part provided proper citations are made.

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